Apple spending $45 million on research center in Beijing

Apple is building a $45 million research facility in Beijing, The Wall Street Journal reports. The facility will employ 500 people and will develop computer, communications, audio, and visual hardware. This will be Apples first R&D facility in China.

Tim Cook announced last month about plans for China and investments for research and development. The facility is reportedly going to be developed in the Zhongguancun Science Park, Beijing, Wangjing district.

Apple has faced hard times recently in China. Chinese authorities shut down iTunes Movies and iBook services earlier this year, which prompted Tim Cooks visits to China. Apple has been manufacturing its devices in China for a long time.

Apple has already made investments in China including the $1 billion invested in Didi Chuxing, a ride-hailing app in China. This new facility may help smooth relations with China and get Apple back one of its important markets.

Microsoft Flow for Android

Microsoft Flow, a workflow management tool, has launched on Android. Flow debuted in April on the web and to iOS. It came about as an interface that lets users integrate two or more cloud services to create workflows such as alerts, data organization, messages, emails, and more.

Screenshot_20160825-144928.pngFlow looks to be a direct competitor to IFTTT and Zapier, though the two have been around longer and offer more functionality. Microsoft Flow is more focused on SharePoint, Office 365, Dynamics CRM, and other business tools and integrating those tools to other services such as Slack, Salesforce, GitHub, and others.

Some uses that were marketed were integrating twitter and automating tweets, getting a text message when you have received an email, copying files from SharePoint to OneDrive, integrating with Dropbox and Instagram, and more.

Users can start with many templates that are online. Once the app is booted it will take users to these templates.

This could help many power users connect to different services or manage data and create streamlined workflows.

Microsoft’s Word Flow Keyboard

Microsoft has come out with an upgraded predictive keyboard app called Word Flow. The app has been available with its initial launch on iOS earlier this spring, though the latest version offers more than intelligent word suggestions and support for one-handed typing. The latest release offers information from the Bing search engine that allows users to look up information on restaurants, news, video, GIFs, and more. GIFs.png

Word Flow started on Windows smartphone and desktop platforms. The app integrated the ability to text via swipe and giving users suggested words to tap on. Its strength though focused on its one-handed typing, which displayed a unique wheel like interface that is accessible from one side of the screen.

Bing ResultsIts 2.0 version of the app now includes support for Bing, GIF, and emoji searches. This was a reaction to Googles Gboard app, which integrated the Google search engine into the keyboard. The update allows users to look up information on the web such as news and weather, and can access the address book to find contacts more easily.

Users can download Microsoft’s Word Flow for free.

Android Nougat officially launched today

Google has launched Android N (Nougat), it’s out of beta, and is available for Nexus devices (Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus 9, Nexus Player), the Pixel C tablet and gradually everyone else with an android. Whether or not you had opted into the beta version, users should start to see update notices in the coming weeks. That’s right, it will take a few weeks for everyone to get in on Android N.

Android N beta was launched in March, early this year, which was a surprise for many. The announcement by Google and the beta came hand in hand. Users flocked to installed the beta to test out the latest Android and Google delivered with many rich features and bugs. I had personally used the beta for a few months but had to un-enroll due to bugs that may not have been critical to other users except for myself. The beta itself was worth installing so this final release will have some changes and fixes for optimized use. Google has stated that Nougat will introduce 250 new features, though many may go by unnoticed.

Some new features users will see are changes in the notifications that comes with a new look and the ability to take action such as responding to messages straight from the notification. Nougat also now groups notifications together from the same app for example all Gmail notifications will be grouped together, messages will be grouped together by the specific app. The Quick Settings widget has also been redesigned and users will now be able to move apps around without having to enable developer mode.

MultiTasking.pngOne of the most useful features is the ability to multitask and have 2 apps open at the same time. Users can hold Overview button (the square on the bottom right of the screen) and Android will give the option to select a new app to fit onto the screen. Depending on the phones orientation the apps will be stacked vertically or split horizontally.

Another useful feature is the ability to switch recently used apps by double-tapping the Overview button (again bottom right square).

Nougat promises that devices will boot faster along with faster OS updates. Nougat also promises to improve battery life using Doze mode, which, for Marshmallow, puts your phone into sleep mode when the device is put down or is not moved in a while. For Nougat Doze will work even if the phones moving and will put the phone to sleep if it has not been used in a while. I predict this will be helpful for those users that do not constantly use their phones.

Nougat also has a Data Saver mode that can reduce the amount of background data apps use. Apps will be restricted from downloading large amounts of data, however,  notifications will still be allowed. Daydream, Googles virtual reality platform, will be introduced in Nougat.

There are a lot of new features coming to Android Nougat, again users will likely have to wait to update, though it will definitely be an interesting experience. As of now Nougat looks promising but again users wont know until actually trying it out.

Google launches Duo video calling app

Google has launched its anticipated video calling app Duo. Duo was announced at Google I/O in May and has rolled out on Android and iOS 9, worldwide. Screenshot_20160817-112550.png

Duo works by video calling via phone numbers and for now that’s all it does. Most of the app is straightforward and simple, with not a lot of features or functionality. One thing users get is knock knock, which lets the recipient of a video call see the caller. This means you can see them real time of course and will help you understand where they are and if, in some cases, who they are with, and may also help users identify other situations before taking the call.

it’s not connected to Hangouts, Spaces, SMS, or any other Google App. Which might make it more inconvenient. Rather than having everything located in one single app, users now will have to navigate between apps.

Most of the app is straightforward and simple, with not a lot of features or functionality. One thing users get is knock knock, which lets the recipient of a video call see the caller. This means you can see them real time of course and will help you understand where they are and if, in some cases, who they are with, and may also help users identify other situations before taking the call.

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With many competitors such as Facebook Messenger, Skype, Apple’s iMessage and FaceTime, Duo might have a hard time breaking into a developed market. Though a strong side for the app might be its optimization of network connectivity. The app can lower video quality or switch to audio only calling based on the strength of the signal, and can switch between data and Wi-Fi connections mid-call.

On another note, Hangouts will be shifting to enterprise with the coming of Allo. There will be a lot of change coming to Google and its users.

Samsung Note 7 gets an iris scanner and more.

The long awaited release of the Samsung Note 7 is finally here. No more rumors or speculations, Samsung has shown the Note 7 and all of its innovations that it has to offer during its announcement earlier today.

The Note 7 follows suit with the S7 and S7 Edge going with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB of RAM, fast charging and wireless charging, it has a 12 megapixel camera, microSD card support, and of course is water resistant. The Note 7 will have 64GB of internal storage and its battery has been increased to 3,500mAh from 3,000mAh of the Note 5.

It has a dual-curved Super AMOLED display with quad HD resolution (2560 x 1440 pixel). The rear glass panel is similar to the front, which makes the phone feel like it is covered in a unibody glass panel. The Note 7 will be the first Samsung phone to have USB Type-C charging.

The biggest changes coming to the latest Note are its newest and innovative features. The Note 7 will come with an iris scanner and a fingerprint scanner, so now users can unlock their phones with their eyes in addition to their fingerprints. Samsung states that the iris scanner is more secure than a fingerprint. Its similar to Windows Hello on Microsoft’s Lumia 950. The feature uses an infrared camera for iris scanning. It can be used to lock apps, photos, notes, and other content within the phone.

The phone also comes with a stylus, the S Pen Active stylus. The Pen has been upgraded to be water resistant, has been given a finer point, and has twice as fine pressure sensitivity. The Pen also comes with new software that gives the Pen new features such as quick text translation, creating GIFs from any video, and magnification.

There will also be changes to its interface giving the Note 7 a cleaner color palette, softer white menus, and more radiance in aesthetics. The Note 7 will launch with Android 6.0 Marshmallow, there’s no timeline for when it will upgrade to Android 7.0 Nougat.

The Note 7 will be available in black, silver, and blue coral, with a gold version available in international markets. Customers will also be able to choose between a free 256 MicroSD card or the Gear Fit 2 when purchasing a Note 7.

Pokemon Go: a big win for players and Nintedo

Nintendo has taken the world for the past few weeks with Pokemon Go. Go, the latest in the Pokemon series, is a new, innovative, way to playing Pokemon, and not for the lazy.

Pokemon has widely been one of the most successful series though mostly playable on a GameBoy, Pokemon Go takes a different approach. Go is available as an app for smartphones. You can get the game from the app store, install, sign up or use your Google Account, and start playing, and best of all its free!

This is where the game differs, from the rest. Using GPS to track players, you, the player, can only find and catch Pokemon by moving around in the real world. The game syncs with what looks like maps and creates a Pokemon world around you. As you move, walk, not drive, around you run into Pokemon that you can catch. Though finding Pokemon may be difficult for some, there are enough to go around. Once you’ve reached level 5 you can battle a gym. Yes, there are battles, with pretty cool animations.

The game has been one of the most talked about things for awhile now and rightfully so. Its a new take at gaming using the physical world around you and perfectly pairs with Pokemon. Players get a fresh new way to play and enjoy the Pokemon world. According to Reuters, the game has been installed on over 5% of active Android devices in the U.S. Its more popular than Tinder and has a larger daily active user population than Twitter.

Nintendo also gets to enjoy the results of Pokemon Go, the company’s stock price rose bringing its total market cap to $28 billion. The game has added $9B to Nintendo’s value and its still too early to see the entire value of the game.

Pokemon Go was developed by Niantic Labs in collaboration with The Pokemon Company, which Nintendo owns 32% of, according to WSJ. 

The game has only been available in the US, Australia, and New Zealand, until today. The game will also be available in Japan, Europe, UK, and a few other Asian countries, according to The Wall Street Journal

While the game may be free there are micro-transactions, which nowadays is a common trend in free and non free games, though personally I haven’t had the need to purchase anything as of yet.

The game has been a huge success, though it might not stay that way. With the need to be on the go to play that alone might turn off some players or it could start a whole new way to playing games. Though Niantic Labs has plans for new features such as a trading system and AR. Games are already being built for virtual reality and I can foresee Pokemon on VR, though this particular kind of game play and interaction with the real world may flow over to different games, so be ready to see all kinds of games with a similar game play style.

Google to buy Moodstocks, a company that can make your smartphone see

Google announced a deal to buy a French startup called Moodstocks, which creates technology that can allow smartphones to recognize what they are looking at.

Moodstocks has been working on this technology to allow smartphones to be more versatile when taking images of objects or people and having the ability to recognize various objects, essentially as if giving smartphones eyes. The company also works with machine learning, which Google has heavily integrated with its services.

“There’s a lot more to be done to improve machine vision,” Google France tech site lead Vincent Simonet said in a blog post.

Google hopes to integrate Moodstocks technology into its AI development. The company’s research and development center in Paris will work with a team from Moodstocks.

Its interesting to see how far this technology will take Googles services and products. Google announced at their annual developers conference in May, a virtual home assistant called Google Home, a competitor of Amazon Echo. With Google Home being thought of as a next gen assistant, this kind of technology may help devices differentiate between objects and even learn and grow to offer more accommodated services.

We’ll also undoubtedly see this technology in smartphones in the near future. This may be included in the next Android OS and give smartphones more functionality and features, and make them smarter. The bigger question is will this technology be included in the self driving cars Google is developing? Image recognition could do wonders for self driving cars. Instead of just sensors, cars will be able to themselves differentiate between different objects such as stop signs, people, animals, cars, bicycles, and various others.

Lenovo’s making flexible phones and tablets

Lenovo’s Tech World 2016 event showed much promise of upcoming tech, one of which is sure to change the way we interact with devices. Lenovo teased flexible phones that can bend around your wrist and tablets that fold in half.

The CPlus is an android smartphone that bends and snaps around the wrist, much like a bracelet and may be fully functional in that state. YouTube star Meghan McCarthy showed a demo of the phone and the tablet during the event. In the demo of the smartphone the screen was very much alive. So it may have certain available functionality much like a smart watch.

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Lenovo Media Kit

The Folio is the company’s tablet that folds outward, which is not the traditional model, this is because it allows the user to be able to use the full screen and given them two screens when folded. The tablet can also be used as a phone when folded.

 

The devices are not available yet, far from it. Aside from creating or working around hardware flexibility, there are many kinks that would need to be solved, and maybe new technologies to be created. The devices were samples of what could be available in the future. Samsung is also working on flexible devices though there haven’t been functional prototypes.

These prototypes do show the promise of flexible devices and in a few years we might see near functional devices.